• Knowledge and Decisions

  • By: Thomas Sowell
  • Narrated by: Robertson Dean
  • Length: 20 hrs and 53 mins
  • 4.8 out of 5 stars (693 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

This reissue of Thomas Sowell’s classic study of decision making, which includes a preface by the author, updates his seminal work in the context of The Vision of the Anointed. Sowell, one of America’s most celebrated public intellectuals, describes in concrete detail how knowledge is shared and disseminated throughout modern society. He warns that society suffers from an ever-widening gap between firsthand knowledge and decision making—a gap that threatens not only our economic and political efficiency but our very freedom. This is because actual knowledge is being replaced by assumptions based on an abstract and elitist social vision of what ought to be.

Knowledge and Decisions, a winner of the 1980 Law and Economics Center Prize, was heralded as a landmark work and selected for this prize “because of its cogent contribution to our understanding of the differences between the market process and the process of government.” In announcing the award, the center acclaimed that the “contribution to our understanding of the process of regulation alone would make the book important, but in reemphasizing the diversity and efficiency that the market makes possible, [this] work goes deeper and becomes even more significant.”

Thomas Sowell is currently a scholar in residence at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. He has been published in both academic journals and such popular media as the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, and Fortune and writes a syndicated column for newspapers across the country.

©1980 Basic Books, Inc. Preface 1996 by Thomas Sowell (P)2012 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

Critic Reviews

“This is a brilliant book. Sowell illuminates how every society operates. In the process he also shows how the performance of our own society can be improved.” (Milton Friedman)
“In a wholly original manner [Sowell] succeeds in translating abstract and theoretical argument into a highly concrete and realistic discussion of the central problems of contemporary economic policy.” (F. A. Hayek)

What listeners say about Knowledge and Decisions

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Thomas Sowell's Greatest Work

IMO, among Thomas Sowell's small library of outstanding contributions, Knowledge and Decisions easily ranks as the finest. This is the 1996 edition, which simply adds a substantial preface to the original 1980 edition as far as I can tell.

The first half of the book is a brilliant, seminal, and timeless treatment of the nature of knowledge, how it is obtained, validated, transmitted, coordinated and acted upon. Sowell analyzes social, economic, and political structures and institutions in terms of their decision making processes and incentives as opposed to their intentions and hoped for results, and explains in a truly fundamental way how complex societies work.

The second half of the book examines specific trends and issues in the social, political, economic, and legal arenas. At the time of its publication, this was the current events section. Of course, the world has changed in many profound (and superficial) ways since 1980, so this section today is more historical in nature.

But since one of the great strengths of Sowell's work is its basis in and exposition of global and world historical experiences and perspectives, section two retains its interest and force, and is an effective reminder of the failures of centralized decision making structures that were viscerally evident a generation ago (especially via communism), but whose implications are largely forgotten today. As the saying goes, those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

All in all, this is a great book that stands the test of time quite easily.

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Hard but well worth the effort.

Here is what you are getting into. This is not a book to listen to while you are jogging. In fact, you might need to read along and take notes. The first 1 hour will be relatively easy to understand. The middle 17 hours will be tough. You might be tempted to give up but stick with it, listen and re-listen in small chunks. The last 3 hours will also be relatively easy to understand.
So why invest the time to listen? What should you expect at the end? Very simply, a thorough analysis of the political situtation in America. You will understand how simple vocabulary changes you've never noticed or you've been taking for granted signal monumental changes in the political framework.

A short overview of the book is that the kind of knowledge deployed or claimed in public decision making should be verifiable and subject to authentication and feedback. Based on this, the book argues that the most monumental political shifts have occurred in those areas where decision making is being shifted from individuals or institutions with incentives for refining their working knowledge with effective feedback to individuals or institutions insulated from any kind of feedback.

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The basic premises in all of Sowell's other works.

The basic premises in all of Sowell's other works are seen here. If you're familiar with his more recent books, this may be redundant for you. But, it was still a good listen.

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Outdated

Chapter 8 is really out dated. We know that cells cannot reproduce in millions of year it would be billions of years if possible, which it is not possible due to molecular biology. Also cell reproduction does not explain how other species can to be or male or female. We also have no fossil records that show any transitions. We need to challenge your views as well. Also, we need more scientific evidence rather than just pictures of what we think happened. This is storytelling.

Also, I forgot Thomas was a Marxist so that explain all the Marxist crap and some bad takes that need to updated. Looks like he a Marxist during when this book was written.

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T Sowell = Timeless

Amazing read, strongly encourage it for understanding all processes undertaken by men. Great political insight and profundity

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Read at least first half

The most important and foundational of Sowell's book. The first part is superb, while the second is boring at times. I enjoyed second part too because it is 30 years old and gives contemporary account, which is different than reading history books now.

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Important knowledge!

Great insight, and a new way of thinking for me, really enjoyed it, even the dense high level English.

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Love Thomas Sowell. Very informative !

Packed full of good information! A little on the monotone side. Still great work though.

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Quite a load of facts to digest on first read.

Thomas Sowell is a powerhouse of knowledge. this book should be a reference for anyone trying to understand how the world works

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Possibly my favourite book of all time

I love this book, puts so much into context. I love the reasech based pragmatic approach Dr. Sowell brings. It's very hard to face the truth so we often lie to ourselves or believe lies that makes us appear better than we are, no such in here.

I would have loved to have recieved this when I turned 18, it would have saved me so much time!

1 person found this helpful

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  • Bester
  • 06-20-21

Retreading.

While a lot of this book is new there is unmistakably a lot of content from other works such as Basic Economics and Visions of the Anointed but for a condensed view of both this isn't half bad.

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  • Vincent Angel
  • 10-26-20

amazing

Sowell, being Sowell, wisdom upon wisdom, precept upon precept. what a great book, check it

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  • Edward
  • 09-21-20

Good (previous reading warning)

This book is fantastic and descriptive of Sowell's knowledge of how economics works in the real world and is impacted by influential systems/actors within society. I would warn however that having read Basic Economics (5th Edition), I found that many of the points were already known and described in more detailed economic terms.

So simply, don't waste your time re-reading views that have been adequately expressed in newer books.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 05-20-20

extraordinarily insightful

extremely thorough, with great everyday examples. explain the processes that range from economic organisation to political electioneering to foreign policy.

gets a little dry at times, but that's inevitable given the complexity of the phenomena it is trying to explain

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  • Jimbo11
  • 05-08-20

More relevant today than ever

A much needed perspective that is so lacking in today's political climate. Highly recommended to anyone not wishing to be hoodwinked.

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  • Y. Syed
  • 07-24-19

This should be required reading for all high school students!

This is Essential information for people living in a democracy!
Understanding how and why certain decisions are made should be understood by all voters. Thus, perhaps _they won’t be fooled again!_

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 03-25-19

Amazing amazing amazing

Thomas sowell is absolutely brilliant and this book has written a book that has completely changed my perspective on institutions, governments and societies. A must read.

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  • ejaik
  • 03-17-19

Exceptional

Thomas Sowells books stand the test of time and I won't be surprised they are still fresh and relevant 40 years from now.
it's a long read and requires patience and an open mind, but definitely worth it.
Also Robertson Dean delivers an excellent performance which makes it suitable even for people whom English is not their first language.

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  • Mr. James M. Smith
  • 01-19-19

Challenging and mind-bending

Good economic thinking is being cognizant of the factors and costs that are hidden from view. The economy is not just about physical goods trading hands, but about the cost of lost opportunity, time, choose, sorting and labeling, etc. In his usual rigorous way, Thomas Sowell lays out the world of knowledge and trade-offs, even in things we take for granted, like laws against murder, and justice itself. When you disagree with Sowell, it's maddening - you know you must have a pretty good argument to combat him.

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  • Lambro Johnson
  • 02-20-18

Brilliant read

Thomas Sowell should be far more widely read and recognized as one of the best commentators on the economics and politics of our times.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 07-28-17

Loved it

an incredible work. demands repeat listens/reads. Robertson Dean is the perfect person to read sowell's work, couldn't imagine it being read by anybody else.

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  • Adam Garrick
  • 06-08-17

incredible

by examining the empirical outcomes of various policies, guidelines, practices etc without any idealogical assumptions about causations, thomas sowell presents a strong set of moral responsibilities through economic perspectives

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  • Wayne Reid
  • 09-20-16

Knowledge, Decisions and Freedom

This book gives so many insights into the functioning of societies I would have invested the time into this book for this reason alone. However, there is much more to this book. it describes in detail how freedom is eroded by those who do not understand the futility of centralising decisions with those with limited knowledge. It has given me insight into how societies slide into decay as much as Hayak's Road to Serfdom.

Sadly this book has also given me reason to believe that academia will never allow someone with Thomas Sowell's commitment to liberty to rise to prominence again.

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  • Grant
  • 01-13-22

Hard to follow

The dense content, unnecessarily complicated language and superficial reading style made this audiobook hard to follow.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 10-12-21

The pinnacle of stupidity

Don't waste your money or credit on this delusional crap. Wow! so stupid it is mind boggling.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 03-22-21

life-changing book

this is one of my favorite books of all time. it lays the foundation for a lot of Thomas Sowell's work in my mind, because he asks the most important question: not 'what shall be done?' but 'who gets to decide?'.

it was the first book of Thomas Sowell that I read, and afterwards I have read almost every other book of his. He is an incredible mind and his contribution to our understanding of the world is vast. a true gift to humanity.
the narrator is my favorite one for Thomas Sowell's books.

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  • Monica
  • 08-20-18

Amazing insight

Thomas Sowell wrote this in 1980 but the content is just as relevant today . He has amazing insight . Beautifully read by the narrator. I’ll be listening again because it was just so full of information.